By Joe Isenhower Jr.
Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of Districts and Congregations with LCMS World Relief/Human Care, says he often first learns about “the steady stream of disasters that have been occurring in recent months” from TV news coverage while at his “deployed home office” in Watsonville, Calif.
That was the case early Sunday morning, April 2, as Hernandez and his wife were getting ready for church. They heard first reports about vicious tornadoes that had just plunged through northwest Tennessee and northeast Arkansas — killing at least 35 people, injuring 300 others, and causing property damage of more than $100 million.
Over the next day, Hernandez was involved in a string of phone calls — with LCMS World Relief/Human Care Executive Director Matthew Harrison; with the LCMS Mid-South District office near Memphis; and with Pastors Richard Behnke of Trinity Lutheran Church, Dyersburg, Tenn., and Curtis Dwyer of St. John, Lafe, Ark. Behnke and Dwyer reported about members’ property loss and damage, although they knew of no serious injuries.
Behnke told Hernandez that at least three homes of members were so damaged that their residents were staying elsewhere.
“Pastor Dwyer called with such a long list of affected members that I asked if he could send an e-mail with the details of the seven members who had lost their homes and the eight with extensive damages,” Hernandez told Reporter.
Hernandez said he was surprised that St. John’s list included a number of Mexican-American families. Dwyer later explained that many of them had been drawn to the congregation by their employers — mostly farmers who are members.
On Friday, April 7, Hernandez was in the tornado-ravaged area, where Dwyer, Behnke, and Mid-South District President Kenneth Lampe accompanied him as they visited with affected members of the two congregations.
Based on Hernandez’ recommendations, Harrison approved initial grants of $5,000 and $20,000 to the Dyersburg and Lafe congregations, respectively, to help respond to the immediate and transitional needs of members suffering storm losses.
Earlier, St. John, Lafe, gave $500 to each of its seven families left homeless.
Hernandez said that both pastors “impressed me with their pastoral hearts and determined dedication to staying very close to their families so severely affected by the tornadoes. They were with them in the early hours after the storms hit, providing on-the-spot spiritual, emotional, and physical assistance. I could tell they had worked tirelessly for days.”
Hernandez added that Behnke and Dwyer were “very appreciative” that Lampe “took time from a busy schedule to make pastoral home visits with them, offering prayers and encouragement for members and their pastors.”
While they visited members April 7, another tornado landed near Nashville, Tenn., causing considerable damage in Gallatin. Then on April 13, yet another hit Iowa City, Iowa.
Hernandez said that assessments of damage from those storms and their effects on members of LCMS congregations were still in progress as this Reporter went to press.
To donate toward tornado-response efforts, make checks payable to LCMS World Relief and send them to LCMS World Relief, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-9810. Write “Tornado Response” in the memo line. Gifts also may be donated securely online (click here) or via telephone by calling (888) 930-4438.
For alerts about LCMS World Relief disaster-response efforts anywhere in the world, subscribe to Disaster News, a free e-News service of the Synod. At the LCMS home page, click on “e-News” and follow directions on the screen.
Posted April 27, 2006